Extinction Rebellion: 'we need to be smarter as a movement in our tactics'

Irish protest group acknowledges London tube protest should not have happened

Irish climate change protesters have said they will learn from "the mistakes" of counterparts in London where two individuals disrupted a tube train service last week, leading to public backlash against the movement.

Two Extinction Rebellion protesters climbed on top of a London tube train before being dragged back to the ground by angry commuters last Thursday.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland (XRI) "stand in solidarity with the rebels who took part in that action but as a group we must acknowledge that it should not have happened," a spokesman said.

Former president Mary Robinson recently spoke out in support of Extinction Rebellion, and during an interview with PA in Armenia this week she added, "I hope they will be very smart about their tactics because if they alienate the public that will put us a step backwards".


XRI spokesman Cormac Nugent said the grassroots movement welcomed Mrs Robinson’s “constructive criticism”. The group “agree that we need to be smarter as a movement in our tactics,” he said.

“XR Ireland do not target public transport for a number of reasons. It impacts on the working class much more which is completely the opposite of what we hope to achieve,” he said.

On Tuesday XRI held a protest outside Leinster House where individuals staged a mock trial of Minister for Communications and Climate Action Richard Bruton set 20 years in the future.

Shane Roberts (42), who works for a Dublin IT company, attended the protest.

“I’m just very concerned about the climate emergency, the Government clearly aren’t taking it seriously, they are all talk,” he said.

Mr Roberts said he did not think large protests aimed at getting thousands of activists arrested, as seen in London, would work in Ireland. “The police in the UK have been very heavy handed, the gardaí here are very hands off,” he said.

Peter Kavanagh, a Green Party councillor for Clondalkin and XRI member, said he wouldn't have subscribed to the disruption of the tube trains in London.

“I think when you’re getting to that scale of protest you need a critical mass on board. The initial stages have to be about winning hearts and minds and I think that’s still the stage we’re at here,” he said.

“I think people are starting to see the emergency. But right now is not the time for us to be laying down in front of train tracks,” he said.

In recent weeks several protesters were arrested after chaining themselves to the gates of Leinster House, but were later released without charge by gardaí.

Emily Murphy, who helped set up XRI Families, attended the mock trial on Tuesday with her two-year-old child in a buggie. She got involved with the parents activists group “to make sure families had a place” in the movement, and to help organise “actions you can bring your kids to,” she said.

Commenting on radical actions taken by groups in the UK, she said she would favour “blocking Government buildings or major roads” in non-violent protest.

Oisin McNeill (24), a recent graduate who joined XRI as an activist a month ago, was also at the Tuesday protest.

“That is one of the facts of the matter when you have a decentralised organisation and everyone is able to take their own actions: sometimes there are going to be actions that people don’t agree with,” he said. One issue with the Irish group was it was “a bit of a middle-class movement” at present, he said.

“We are coming together learning from our own mistakes, learning from the mistakes of the UK as well, deciding where to go from here,” he said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times